The last conversation I had with my mom was when I told her I would be over soon to be with her and she said “I hope so”. My mom passed away the next day at 4:45pm. I was sitting at my then boyfriends house and remember this weird feeling came over me. I knew something was different. I felt this weird feeling that felt like “dread” and a weird kind of boredom. I felt dead. I tried watching TV, playing on my phone, going for a walk but nothing felt right. I was holding my phone when my stepdad called and I just knew! My stepdad’s exact words to me were “she’s gone”. I threw my phone on the floor and tried to cry. Its really weird when you know somebody is going to pass but just don’t know when. You think about what your reactions will be when it happens. I thought that I would be a mess but I wasn’t and had to force myself to cry. I felt so numb. I called my best friend Lizzy first and she didn’t answer so I called other friends and they weren’t sure what to say. My best friend called back and I told her what happened and with zero hesitation she said ” I am on my way”. This girl will forever always hold a special place in my heart.
What a drive that was… I didn’t have my license at the time but I told my friend I needed to drive to my moms place. It would make me feel better. It didn’t. I kept thinking about what my mom would look like. I’m surprised I got us there okay. We arrived at my mom’s place. There she was. I remember not knowing how to feel. I went and touched her face and it was still warm. I kissed her and laid down with her. The woman who gave birth to me and the only one to love me so unconditionally was lifeless. I told her I loved her so much and that I would see her again. I don’t think my brain could process what was going on.
I don’t know who these people were but they showed up in a van to take my mom. My mom lived in a 5th wheel trailer at the time so it was small. The people brought a sheet and a stretcher type thing. Where I was sitting I had a clear shot into the room where she passed. They were being nice but I remember thinking they could be a little more gentle. Why did it matter? She was dead. Then they walked right passed me. I was a big girl but I wish someone shielded me from seeing her. I could see the outline of her face and nose through the sheet and broke down. That moment will stick with me for the rest of my life.
The next few nights were a blur but I was being strong. Mothers day was 6 days after my mom passed and I made it through that alright. My thoughts went from negative to positive. I was comforted by the fact that all of my mom’s immediate family preceded her in death. I was still angry at God but this was all in the “plan” for her life. I knew I had to get through this for her. My mom wouldn’t want me to be sad and would want me to focus on my life. I was only 17 and had my whole life ahead me. My new life without a mom officially started. Its like living a whole different life. I could no longer call her for advice that only your mother could give but I was managing.
The months following my moms brain surgeries, were without a doubt the toughest months in my entire life. I think she had brain surgery every month. It was harder than her passing. I was mad at God, myself and pretty much everyone. I remember a few days after one of her last brain surgeries a woman came into her room and we thought she was just a social worker etc. The woman started talking about signing a DNR(do not recuscitate) or not signing one. The woman started talking about hospice and my mom yelled at her and told her she wasn’t dying. I had to leave the room because deep down I knew that she was. I hated seeing someone I love try to fight so hard and use whatever energy she had left on a battle she wouldn’t win.
If you have ever seen any one suffer from terminal cancer or any terminal illness you know that its the most helpless feeling in the universe. I almost wish that it was a car accident as morbid and awful as that sounds. You are pretty much watching the one that you love get tortured very slowly. When its your own parent, the one who gave you life, I think it touches on that feeling a little more.
Around January of 2010 my mom could no longer speak for herself, she was basically turning into a vegetable. But that was very short lived. My mom would go into a comatose state and then wake up as if nothing was wrong which is pretty common in the end of a cancer battle. Cancer was taking over her body and one mass in her brain was inoperable. My step-dad had power of attorney and decided to get in-home hospice care. When she woke up from her first comatose state, I think she really started accepting her impending death and fully accepted hospice.
My mom was given her own push button to dispense morphine straight into her pic line to keep her comfortable. We would sometimes sleep in the same bed because I still loved cuddling with her. One night she woke up crying and I woke up with her and she was pushing her morphine button over and over, all while feeling frustrated and sobbing in pain. She had asked if I could just take it all away. That’s a lot for a 17 year old right? It was like a scene out of a movie filled with pure frustration and sorrow all mixed into one. I started crying and hugging and holding her so tight. We fell asleep holding each other that night and that was the last time we ever shared a bed and snuggled together.
Every other week she would go into a comatose state and then wake up and drink milk, eat something and joke around. It was an emotional roller coaster. I can count 3 times where we thought she was going to pass away. My mom’s breathing would get extremely labored, her oxygen would go into the 40s, and she would make gargling noises. I would prepare myself every time for her to pass and call hospice and say “this is it”. The next day she would wake up and literally act like she was not just knocking on heavens door the previous night. I knew that she knew she was passing though even though she never said a word, she never had to. There were times when she started talking to her mom who had preceded her in death. I would catch her telling her mom that she was ready to “come home”. My mom didn’t talk a whole lot about her mom because she died when my mom was 23, which is my age now.
I would like to say before I post my next blog about her death, that this is not intended to make anybody sad. This story is truly meant to be inspirational because I am living proof that you can still live life to the fullest even when you have experienced your worst nightmare. This is just the harsh reality of terminal cancer. If you remember in my first blog, I always knew something was going to happen to my mom. It was always in my mind and I would try to prevent it any way I could. If people asked me before my mom was sick what my worst fear was, the answer was always “losing my mom, my best friend”.
I had just finished getting ready to go hang out with some friends because life had returned back to normal. My mom and step-dad were eating dinner and I was sitting in a nearby chair when all of a sudden I hear my mom say in a frantic voice ” my hand locked up and wont move, I don’t know what’s happening”. (I later learned that she was taking the lid off of a plastic milk carton when her right hand just froze up and stopped responding). I jumped up and took one look at my mom and said “your lips are turning blue, I’m calling 911”. While I was on the phone with 911 I told them “I think she is having a stroke, she had her lung removed 6 months ago and please just hurry”. I still don’t know how the dispatcher understood me through the frantic crying.
While we were waiting for the ambulance I had what I call “racing thoughts”. What is going on? I thought this was over? What could this be? Um God, hello…what’s this about? Is this some sort of weird side effect from only having one lung? My mind went to weird places.
The paramedics and my friends who were picking me up both arrived at the same time. My mom was telling me to go with them and I kept saying absolutely not and sent them on their way. I jumped in the ambulance front passenger seat as they could only take one family member. My step-dad cussed me out for a good 2 minutes and we argued about who was going to ride with her. I was not going to not go and just stay at home and wonder. I feel like kind of a bitch now when I think about it but he had his own means of transportation and I didn’t. Plus I felt like this battle was a battle that I was fighting too. I was there from the very beginning and he was not.
My mom was sent home a few hours later with no answers. Her right hand/arm hung around her side for weeks to come. My mom finally got fed up and drove herself to urgent care, whom told her it was just anxiety and sent her on her way. What the heck? Just anxiety?
I woke up one morning a few days after that urgent care visit, to an awfully eerily quiet home. There was nobody home and this was odd. I called my mom and no answer. I called my step-dad and same thing. I anxiously awaited a phone call or for them to get home. My step-dad finally after what seemed like hours called and said that my mom had woken up early that morning and just wasn’t acting all “there”, so he took her to the hospital. I learned via phone that a scan showed a “mass on her brain”.
I remember being in shock and feeling so numb and alone, literally. I was so angry at God. “Are you even real?”” In almost every prayer for the last 7 years, I have prayed and practically begged of you to keep my mom in good health”. “I can’t handle this, so take it away” was something I would say out loud to just about anyone who would listen, including God.
The months following included 4 brain surgeries along with more chemo and more chemo. This was truly the real journey of the “beginning of the end”. I stopped going to high school. I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to spend as much time with my mom as I could. I had to listen to my instincts that had become so prominent back when I was 10 that something “bad was going to happen to my mom” and this was it. I had to be there for her through it all.
The chest x ray came back and showed a spot in mamas lungs and pneumonia is what the Dr. suspected. I was relieved when I heard that word because I thought it was going to be something far worse. But then I remembered the Dr. said they are “suspecting” pneumonia but aren’t positive and will need to run some more tests.
I went outside and had a cigarette and called my boyfriend at the time who was in college in Northern California and with a worried voice I said ” I think my mom has pneumonia and I am really worried about her”. I remember he did the best he could to calm my nerves. I still feel so appreciative of his help during that time. He had never really lost anyone close to him, and he did better than I probably would have. I remember outside of the hospital was my number one thinking place. I would go outside and have a one on one with God and tell him ” I always asked that you keep my mom healthy for me , what is going on? Why are we here?”
“We will have to do a biopsy of the spot in your lungs to make sure it isn’t something else”
Within a short amount of time we had the biopsy back. I really can’t remember hearing the words ” It’s cancer of your lung and we need to talk about options” very well but I know they were said. What! Cancer? My mom was a smoker since the age of 15 and here I was 16 and smoking. I remember practically running outside with tears flowing down my eyes. Cancer? I remember being so angry at cigarettes, at cancer, at God. I decided I would tear up my cigarettes at that very moment but for some reason I had this sense of regret for doing that. Weird right? Those were just about the only thing that calmed my nerves this moment. I called my friends, all whom were in shock. I remember yelling at God “I cant handle this, take it away!”
At this point we were all in denial. At the time, I had a stepdad whom I didn’t get along with very much. I actually despised him. My mom decided that she wanted to do everything possible to save her life. Two days later on April 18, 2009 my mom had surgery. The surgery lasted 8 hours with the Dr. coming out and saying “we had to take the whole right lung”. The disease had taken over her entire right lung. There were tests to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else.
We were now on our way to recovery. My mom still had to get chemotherapy to make sure they killed any cells that were still lingering. My mom was the classiest woman I have ever known. My mom would curl her hair every single morning and get all dolled up. When she started losing her hair, I think that was almost as painful to watch as it was to watch her cough up blood. It really brought me back to reality. My mom was doing great the months following, and I had returned to my senior year of High school. I had no idea someone could live with just one lung and rock it at that. My mom would walk a lot as we had no transportation at the time. All was well the following months until October, 2009.
To be continued…
I can still remember the gloomy April day like it was yesterday. My mom and I were taking public transportation and having a fantastic day running errands together. I could only wish that the weather was the only thing that would have remained gloomy that day. That was so not the case.
We hadn’t yet pulled away from the bus stop when my mom coughed something fierce. She grabbed a napkin and had what I thought just spit into the napkin. I didn’t pay too much attention to it until my mom gave me a look that one could only describe as a “deer in the headlights look”. When she showed me the napkin, my stomach dropped to the floor it seemed. There was A LOT of bright red blood in it, a color so bright that I will never forget it. I still remember thinking “oh no, this cant be good and where in the world is the blood coming from?” “Did she bust her lip?” “Should I call an ambulance?” “Is she going to be okay?” “Is this a horrible disease?” “OMG is she going to die?” “Is this really happening?”
My mom and I were closer than close could be, as I do not have my bio dad around. We had been through SO much together, from being homeless and living in her car at one point(until it started on fire) to experiencing and helping each other through the loss of other loved ones and everything in between. I used to pray to God a lot when I was younger. I felt like I had a real relationship with him. I remember always thinking that something bad was going to happen to my mama so I would pray and ask God not to ever take my mom from me. I just wouldn’t be able to handle it and God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle, right? I added that exact prayer to my nightly prayers every night from the age of 10.
We got off of the bus and got a ride from a friend and arrived at the hospital about a half hour after she had coughed up blood. I remember the hospital being so busy that my mom didn’t get called back for at least 3 hours. That was not the end of the waiting game unfortunately. When she finally got called back and got a bed, we had to wait another 2 hours in the hallway as they had no rooms ready. They started running tests like blood work, x rays and others that I can’t even pronounce. We finally got a room and that’s when it all turned into a blur. The “blur” is a sense of numbness that has never left my soul. If you have experienced loss of a loved one, you certainly understand the feeling. April 16th 2009 was the last “normal” day I ever had with my mother.